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Reframing Writing Assessment to Improve Teaching and Learning

Reframing Writing Assessment to Improve Teaching and Learning

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 207
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  • Book Info
    Reframing Writing Assessment to Improve Teaching and Learning
    Book Description:

    Adler-Kassner and O'Neill show writing faculty and administrators how to frame discussions of writing assessment so that they accurately represent research-based practices, and promote assessments that are valid, reliable, and discipline-appropriate. Public discourse about writing instruction is currently driven by ideas of what instructors and programs "need to do," "should do," or "are not doing," and is based on poorly informed concepts of correctness and unfounded claims about a broad decline in educational quality. This discussion needs to be reframed, say Adler-Kassner and O'Neill, to help policymakers understand that the purpose of writing instruction is to help students develop critical thinking, reading, and writing strategies that will form the foundation for their future educations, professional careers, and civic engagement. Reframing Writing Assessment to Improve Teaching and Learning is grounded in the best of writing assessment research, and focuses on how to communicate it effectively to publics beyond academe.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-799-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Education

Table of Contents

    (pp. 1-12)

    Consider the following scenario, discussed on the Writing Program Administration listserv (WPA-L). The scenario is based on the experiences of a writing program administrator at a large midwestern university:

    The writing program director learns that “there is a movement afoot” at her university to administer the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) to first-year students and seniors. This will mean that these students will take a ninety-minute essay exam designed to “test” their critical thinking skills. The tests results will be published so that her institution can be compared to others in its category and, if necessary, used to improve any weaknesses...

    (pp. 13-39)

    In chapter one, we suggested that postsecondary writing instruction and writing assessment orbits are at the center of a very large galaxy that includes questions about the purpose of a college education, expectations of “productive” citizens, and, ultimately, the nation’s successful progress.

    From documents like Ready or Not, an influential report published by the American Diploma Project (Achieve 2004), memos published by or in association with the Voluntary System of Accountability (e.g., McPherson and Shulenberger 2006), and other policy reports, it’s possible to piece together a dominant narrative about the exigency surrounding these discussions about education. The problem, this story...

    (pp. 40-80)

    In chapter two, we discussed how the current frame surrounding stories of American education perpetuates and builds upon existing tales of the purpose of school. This frame currently shapes a dominant story about postsecondary education focusing on “preparation for college and career,” linking individual economic success to national progress. It has also led to a number of issues linked to the purposes and audiences for assessment that illustrate the differences that often exist between the many individuals and groups who are invested in postsecondary education, from instructors to future employers.

    In this chapter, we examine the framing of topics and...

    (pp. 81-109)

    In chapter two, we described the current frames surrounding discussions of higher education, and stories linked to them. Their central concepts, conveyed in words and phrases like “preparedness” and “college and career readiness” are linked to a number of broader, interrelated stories. Within an ever-expanding frame that constrains the range of meanings and actions that can be “commonsensically” associated with these concepts, some approaches to teaching, learning, and assessment are seen as “logical” and others as “illogical,” “impractical,” or “uncommonsensical.” We like the way linguist William Hanks describes how people function when these frames become taken-for-granted. He says that in...

    (pp. 110-144)

    So far, we have been discussing the issue of reframing writing assessment through historical and theoretical lenses, and describing some processes writing instructors might use for reframing. In this chapter, we move away from abstract discussions to examine how reframing works in the complexity and messiness of the real world. We offer examples of real writing instructors and program coordinators working in real institutions under the real constraints we all experience. While we have selected these case studies purposefully to showcase successful, positive reframing efforts, we also acknowledge that these are not “ideal” or “perfect” models of reframing. (We discuss...

  6. 6 REFRAMING ASSESSMENT: Why Does My Participation Matter?
    (pp. 145-178)

    In the last chapter, we saw how writing instructors and program administrators in different types of institutions and programs have used a variety of strategies to reframe writing assessment on their campuses. We also demonstrated how the efforts of these writing professionals reflect a number of the strategies described in chapter four that we believe are essential for this work: building alliances, thinking about values and actions, and communicating with stakeholders in a variety of different ways. In this chapter, we delve more deeply into some of the messy complexities of reframing writing assessment. We begin by summarizing interviews with...

    (pp. 179-191)

    Throughout this book, we’ve discussed the ways that frames and framing shape individual and group perceptions of what is “commonsensical” and what is outside of the boundaries of “common sense.” From communication studies and linguistics (Carey 1989; Hall 1983; Hanks 1995; Ryan 1991), to literature and literary criticism (Adichie 2009; Faulkner [in Wise 1980]; Ondajte 1996; Williams 1973), to historiography (Wise 1980; White 1978), a variety of authors and texts allude to the same point: in a circular and self-referential way, frames reflect and perpetuate stories, and the process of framing influences how we tell and interpret those tales. These...